What is Nike Forward? Nike’s new material, explained

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Today, Nike unveiled one of its most significant wearable innovations since the release of Dri-Fit in 1991. After five years in development, the sports brand presents Nike Forward with the launch of a hoodie that reinvents the production of fleece garments.

“We use a brand new manufacturing method that we pioneered, where we take the fibers directly into a manufacturing machine, a needle punching machine, and produce the fabric,” said Carmen Zolman, Vice President of Apparel Innovation. Designed by Nike. Complex. “Traditionally, with a knit or a woven, you have fibers that you spin into yarns, then knit or weave, before dyeing and finishing. We removed every step we could, down to the simplest process, so we could have a very small carbon footprint.

The Nike Forward Hoodie weighs less than a pound and is an all-polyester garment made with 70% recycled content by weight. It is only available in gray as it eliminates the process of using water to colorize the garment with dyes. Early versions of the label will not include additional zippers, aglets or trimmings, as this makes it easier to recycle garments. By moving away from traditional weaving and knitting techniques, Nike Forward’s fleece garments add another sustainable production initiative to the brand’s portfolio.

Image via Nike

“From a sustainability perspective, we really want Nike Forward to empower athletes and Nike to travel to a better world,” says Zolman, who has worked as a apparel designer for Nike for the past 15 years. “So from that innovation, we weren’t actually trying to retrofit another Nike technology and make it more durable. We built it from the ground up and what it ended up with was a reduction of carbon by 75% compared to a traditional knitted fleece.

Eco-friendly products are nothing new to Nike. Since 2008, all Nike Air soles have been made from at least 50% recycled manufacturing waste. For the past 30 years, Nike Grind, a grassroots initiative that turns used shoes and Nike factory scraps into usable materials, has been used to make products like Decoded phone cases and Home Depot carpet padding. . Nike is currently working with textile recycling group Wolkat to recycle 100% polyester products and Kvadrat to recycle 100% cotton garments. Zolman tells Complex that Nike Forward came about because information from Nike about athletes revealed that climate change was impacting their own ability to make exercise a daily habit. When you look at how extreme heat has crippled major cities like London this summer, it’s obvious that Nike is adapting to the changing times. Of course, with the future of athletes in mind, Nike’s sustainability-conscious platform doesn’t compromise performance.

“What is really incredible in this first [Nike Forward] material is that it meets our highest athlete warming benchmark. And yet, it’s also one of our lightest fabrics ever,” says Zolman, who points out that Nike’s Therma-FIT ADV garments set the benchmark for warmth for Nike Forward. “Athletes are surprised and delighted with the wear tests we have done on the warmth they retain as well as the lightness and ventilation of the garment.”

Nike Forward First Look Details
Image via Nike

While the Nike Forward Hoodie was designed with athletes in mind, the silhouette falls on trend with the look of other popular hoodies offered by labels such as Yeezy Gap today. Although it is impossible to determine the future of Nike Forward in the fashion market, similar materials created by Nike in the past have been embraced by designers. Flyknit, a woven yarn that took a decade to develop and was designed to reduce footwear materials, has been at the forefront of collaborations with labels such as Supreme, Off-White and Acronym. The first Nike shoe released by Matthew M. Williams of Alyx and Givenchy was an imaginative version of Nike’s Free TR Flyknit 3. Zolman thinks Nike Forward has a lot of potential beyond just achieving durability and athletic performance goals.

“It really unlocked a new class of material, not a knit or a woven, and with that came all these amazing new benefits,” Zolman says, while pointing out the unique needle punch holes and raw cut edges produced. by the Nike Forward manufacturing process. . “It has a completely different hand feel, different drape and garment silhouette. It allowed us to do some unique things like replicate and modernize a ribbed trim that you would see on a traditional hoodie.

Nike Forward First Look Cropped Hoodie
Image via Nike

Nike Forward and other recycled polyester or plastic materials are not the ultimate solution when it comes to reducing the environmental impact of apparel production. Although recycled polyester keeps plastic bottles out of landfills, microplastics are released when these garments are washed. But with Nike Forward, the sportswear giant is taking a step in the right direction towards achieving its sustainability goals set by its Move to Zero initiative unveiled in 2019.

“It’s really an amazing unlock when you have a new fabric with different abilities that allows designers to play with things that they wouldn’t normally be able to do,” Zolman says. “Really simple, really reductive. We believe this is our biggest innovation platform since Dri-Fit. We are therefore embarking on a long journey for a better world.

Nike Forward’s first apparel, a hoodie and crewneck, will release worldwide on Thursday, September 15.

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